The Relations Between Evangelicals and Mormons

Ms. Jack is someone I think I could get along with because she is obviously full of integrity. She is an Evangelical that married a Mormon and is now an active part of the bloggernacle. I certainly don’t agree with her on many things. In fact, this post will be a series of (partial) disagreements with one of her comments.

But from what I’ve seen of her comments online, she is making an honest attempt to understand Mormons. Though I feel she often fails in her quest — I would ask all to remember how incredibly difficult it is to get past our own intrenched meaning-memes for the sake of understanding someone else’s. Ms Jack rocks when it comes to making the sincere attempt to communicate and understand.

Consider, for example, this post from T&S a while back.

It led to a discussion about why Evangelicals call Mormons ‘not Christian.’ Ms. Jack said the following on this subject:

I would say that Mormons consider themselves the only true Christians and Protestants return fire by arguing that Mormons aren’t really Christians in the first place.

Please note that I am not endorsing the “Mormons aren’t Christians” argument. That’s not my position by a long shot. I’m just saying it isn’t a one-way thing. Giving lip service to my Christianity whilst insisting that my faith is corrupt and incomplete, my baptism into Jesus Christ is invalid, and I’m not indwelt by the Holy Spirit (i. e. I don’t have the gift of the Holy Ghost) isn’t exactly a flattering assessment of my faith.

 

 

The very fact that Ms. Jack is willing to not call Mormons “non-Christians” should make it clear that Ms Jack is sincerely trying to understand Mormonism and is unwilling to settle for lame platitudes and pat answers.
 
Word Policing: The Power of Nuance
 
However, since I’ve recently been doing posts on ‘word policing’ this quote seemed apt as a good example of how much nuance matters. In short, I would like to break apart this quote and demonstrate that it’s both entirely true and also somewhat (unintentionally, I believe) misleading. 
 
Mormons As Aggressors?
 
The first thing I note is that she places the Mormons as the aggressors. We attack first and Evangelicals are just ‘firing back.’ This nuance plays off our natural inclination to ‘excuse’ bad behavior by those that have been unfair attacked.
 
My feeling is that there was no ‘first shot’ in the religious “battles” between Mormons and Evangelicals any more than there is between any two mutually exclusives religions. The simple fact is that mutually exclusive religions are an “attack” on all that the other holds near and dear by their mere existence.  The moment Mormons existed, they were, in a sense, an attack on all other Christians. But no more so than other Christians were an ‘attack’ on Mormons.
 
I suppose one can emotionally decide what they want to believe here. One could certainly decide that all Christians in the world were minding their own business when Mormons had to go and spoil it by coming into existence. If this is your preference, then, yes, I suppose it’s true that Mormons ‘attacked first’ and other Christians merely ‘returned fire.’ But personally this seems misleading to me at best. I prefer the idea that all religions have a right to exist. And since all religions are always somewhat mutually exclusive from all others, I prefer to not peg one religion as the ‘aggressor’ and one as the ‘defender.’
 
Nuance is the Emotion In Your Choice of Words
 
I think another fair complaint is that she is insisting on seeing the Mormon view of her religion in as nearly unfriendly — yet still truthful – a light as is possible. However, that being said, I don’t think it’s an inaccurate light. There is a legitimate sense in which her view can be said to be truthful. Mormons certainly do not see other Christians as equivalent to themselves when it comes to certain issues that she hits upon. But, of course, nor do Evangelicals see Mormons as equivalent to themselves when it comes to the same issues.
 
Examples of How Words Matter
 
I, being a Mormon, would not have prefered the choice of words she makes. For one, I’ve long since decided (as have the vast majority of Mormons) that the word “Christian” is not owned by us and actually refers to anyone that sincerely is trying to follow Jesus Christ as taught by scripture. So her first statement rings untrue to me: Mormons do not claim to be ‘the only true Christians.’
 
But here, I must confess I don’t see her as precisely wrong either. These are just words, after all, and thus there is a range of meanings possible. I suspect “only true Christian” in this context could easily mean “only Christians that have a Church setup by God instead of man” or “only Christians with the full restored gospel.” And this would be an accurate understanding of Mormon beliefs. And, yes, I can see why this would offend Evangelicals for much the same reason why I can see why Evangelicals condemning Mormons (or at least ones that really believe in their religion and aren’t closet Evangelicals) to hell would offend many Mormons.
 
Likewise, I have serious concerns with her choice of words in the rest. For example:
 
“My faith is corrupt”: If she means “corrupt” as in the sense of “evil” certainly this is incorrect by modern Mormon standards. (You might convince me Mormons from the past sometimes saw other religions as in some sense evil. There seems to be a mixed view on this in the past that eventually became a view that other religions are not evil.)  But if she means “corrupt” as in the sense of a message becoming corrupted (i.e. lost information or accidentally added parts not in the original message) then this seems like an accurate thing to say about Mormon beliefs.
 
“and incomplete”: Can’t argue with this one.
 
“my baptism into Jesus Christ is invalid”: Hmm… It’s my understanding that Mormons believe baptisms in other Churches are appropriate and good and that God appreciates them and even recognizes them as sincere attempts to come to Him. But if by ‘invalid’ she means ‘without the necessary authority that will eventually be required for Exaltation’ then ‘invalid’ is probably the right word here. [1]
 
However, there is a missing nuance here that is being overlooked. First, Evangelicals do not believe in priesthood authority in the Mormon sense in the first place. So Evangelicals actually agree with Mormons that from within a Mormon theological view (which Evangelicals believe to be wholly false) their baptisms would not be considered ‘valid’ in the Mormon sense.
 
Second, Evangelicals don’t believe there is such a thing as ‘Exaltation’ in the Mormon sense – as that is the word reserved by Mormons for “Godhood.” So Evangelicals have no interest in their baptisms being ‘valid’ in the Mormon sense and don’t believe it’s possible for a baptism to be ‘valid’ in that sense.
 
Third, Mormons do see their baptisms as being ‘valid’ for getting one into the Terrestrial Kingdom, which is roughly equivalent to the Evangelical concept of heaven. Therefore, Mormons and Evangelicals are actually in agreement in which sense Evangelicals baptisms are ‘valid’ or ‘not valid.’
 
It seems to me that all this nuance being left out causes one to pretty much misunderstand the actual LDS position on baptism. Yet, I can see that the statements is true.
 
“and I’m not indwelt by the Holy Spirit (i. e. I don’t have the gift of the Holy Ghost)”: I can’t help but feel that Ms Jack is mixing doctrines inappropriately here. The Mormon concept of the gift of the Holy Ghost does not map easily to the Evangelical concept of being indwelt by the Holy Ghost. Specifically, Mormons intermix several concepts when they speak of the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of the Lord. They feel that all human beings have what they call “The Light of Christ” which is one form of “The Spirit of the Lord” or “Holy Spirit” when used in an informal sense. And it is my understanding that Evangelicals make no such distinction, so it is not actually correct to say that Mormons don’t believe Evangelicals are not ‘indwelt by the Holy Ghost’ since the Evangelical concept of ‘The Holy Ghost’ is broad enough to include the Mormon concept of the Light of Christ and the Spirit of the Lord. 
 
However, I’m unsatisfied by this explanation as well. For it is true that Mormons do not accept that Evangelicals have what they refer to as “The Gift of the Holy Ghost.” Of all the things Ms Jack says, this one might be the least misleading.
 
Does “Offensive” Describe Something About the Described Or About the Describer?
 
One thing I’ve begun to wonder about is if the phrase ‘that is offensive’ is more a description of the object/idea in question or if it’s more a description of the person doing the speaking. Is ‘offensiveness’ innate to an object or is it actually an expression of how that object/idea makes us feel? Or can this sometimes be innate to the object/idea and sometimes merely be a description of our feelings?
 
Consider Ms. Jack’s next quote:
 
“isn’t exactly a flattering assessment of my faith”: If I think of ‘not flattering” as an accurate description of how Ms Jack feels, I guess she’s right about this one. It is not flattering to in any sense be told your faith is wrong to any degree. I wrote about this at length in a previous post.
 
The problem I see with this comment is that there is nothing unique about the Mormon position here. Evangelicals, without a doubt, consider all religious belief systems differing too much from their own as inferior to their own. I wrote about this at length as well.
 
Church vs. Religion
 
I can’t help but feel that there is a word game going on with this one. Mormons have a theological concept of “Church” that is intimately tied to ‘religion.’ Evangelicals do not. Therefore when a Mormon says they are the one true ‘church’ they really just mean (in closest possible Evangelical speak) they are the one true ‘belief system’ or ‘religion’  and that in so far other religions differ from them in mutually exclusive ways, they are right and the other religion is wrong.
 
But isn’t that pretty much true for every religion by virtue of what ‘truth’ means in the first place?
 
When Evangelicals ‘return fire’ by saying “I can’t believe my Church is the one true Church” they really just mean something similar to (as explained in this post) “well, actually I believe which Church organization you happen to belong to is meaningless — but I do believe I have the one and only true religion and that all others are false in any way they differ from mine.”
 
Once we get past the word confusion, it’s not hard to see that there is a direct correlation here between the two religions, and that it was impossible to have it any other way.
 
Except that there are also noticeable differences as well.
 
Salvation for All
 
Ironically, when Evangelicalsmake the claim “I don’t believe I have the one true Church” they seem to be attempting to appeal to the idea that a God that saves more broadly is somehow a better God. Their God ‘saves people in more Churches’ and therefore is a better God then the Mormon God that ‘saves’ only one Church. Or so it seems they are saying.
 
If that sentiment is true, then Mormons win hands down, period, end of story. For Mormons are semi-universalists and Evangelicals believe in a forever hell that the vast majority of human beings will go to.
 
The fact is that the only part of Mormonism that isn’t universalist in nature is their treatment of one specific form of salvation, i.e. “Exaltation” (or Godhood.) Evangelicals inform me that they don’t believe in this form of salvation and have no interest in it anyhow. So its hard to see how God holding this back could somehow be an issue for either God or the Evangelicals.
 
Further, Mormons actually believe that all religions (and even all non-religions) will have a full fair chance to be exalted if they wish, even if right now they think they are not interested. This is handled via the Mormon concepts of salvation of the dead and proxy ordinances.
 
In short, it’s hard to see how the Mormon concept of ‘one truth Church’ is rationally speaking in any way offensive to Evangelicals.
 
Yet, I’m sure this is ‘cold comfort’ to Evangelicals and others since human beings simply do not like to ever be told that they are wrong about something they hold near and dear and gain meaning from.
 
This is, in a way, ironic. The message of Mormonism is that Evangelicals are basically a true and correct religion in what portions of truth they already believe in. They are really accepting Jesus, really are Christians, and really are going to receive the reward that is the desire of their heart.
 
The real problem is that Mormons also believe that there is more and that to receive this more Evangelicals (and all religions and non-religions) must eventually — perhaps after death — give up any untrue portion of their beliefs and accept true ones in their place. But that they will only have to do this if they want to and they can instead opt to receive the reward they were expecting.
 
And this really is a doctrine that offends for being unflattering! Of that, I have no doubt. None whatsoever.
 
But I have two questions about this:
1. Is it really ‘more offensive’ then believing all religions that differ too much from you go to hell forever, including the vast majority of humanity?
2. Is it really the fault of the Mormons that their beliefs are ‘offensive’ or is ‘offensive’ really just a personal (and accurate) description  of how it feels to be told that your personal meaning-meme is partially false? (Including Mormons when the reverse is done to them by Evangelicals. of course.)
 
I think the truth is that we should not be offended that Evangelicals believe Mormons are mostly going to go to  hell(unless they happen to be a Mormon that happens to believe like an Evangelical.) I think this is a warning often done out of the sincerity of the Evangelical heart and should not be a cause for offensive.
 
Of course it is “natural” for us to feel offended by this, I admit. But here I see “natural” as being the same sense as in “natural man.” This is the sort of offense God expects us to put aside. Instead, the right way to handle an Evangelical that believes we are going to hell is to kindly disagree with them and use this as a jumping off point to talk about our own beliefs about the nature of God. I would recommend this same approach to the Evangelicals when talking with Mormons.
 
Notes
[1] I confess I’m over simplifying here. Actually baptism in the LDS Church is understood as related to entering into the Celestial Kingdom, a pre-requisite for exaltation but not equivalent to it.

13 thoughts on “The Relations Between Evangelicals and Mormons

  1. “1. Is it really ‘more offensive’ then believing all religions that differ too much from you go to hell forever, including the vast majority of humanity?”

    I know for certain that not all Evangelicals believe this. Instead, they favor something more like “we are all judged according to what we’ve been given.” Tim over at LDS & Evangelical Conversations has explained that point well (sorry, I don’t have a direct link to a post).

    “The fact is that the only part of Mormonism that isn’t universalist in nature is their treatment of one specific form of salvation, i.e. “Exaltation” (or Godhood.) Evangelicals inform me that they don’t believe in this form of salvation and have no interest in it anyhow. So its hard to see how God holding this back could somehow be an issue for either God or the Evangelicals.”

    I can see how it’s offensive. We’re basically saying, “Don’t worry, you still get saved, it’s just salvation ‘lite’.” And to say that they don’t believe in exaltation is true, but only true as far as our definition of the term. They certainly do believe in a theosis, and here I can point you to a post by Ms Jack herself!

  2. Sorry, but I just realized that my comment only disagreed with you, thereby misrepresenting my overall view of your post. I think you present the issues very well and should have said so first.

  3. Great post. I think the main point is that Evangelicals feel Mormons are being condescending towards them. It must be infuriating to be condescended to, in such a nice way, from someone who is going to hell.

    I think we are getting somewhere when we start viewing the subject on a psychological and emotional level, rather than simply a rational, doctrinal one. The reasons we don’t agree have more to do with culture and emotional investment than rational or incomplete understanding of self-evident doctrine.

  4. Very interesting. This topic is dear to my heart. I am soon to be baptised and my husband is not to supportive. I put my beliefs on hold for 3 years finally realizing 1) that I was being dishonest 2) that we have far greater issues in our marraige that this. But he shots a lot of these issues at me, most of which I am confident of but… Sometimes he surprises me.

    Anyhow, great post.

  5. I yearn for the old days when Baptists thought Methodists were all going to hell and vice versa. And Catholics, fuggeddabouddit! We Mormons were just one of the crowd back then.

  6. BrianJ,

    You are right that some Christians believe in judgment by what knowledge we have. However, this view does not fit well with many many many strains of Christianity. And, in fact, it’s really a minority position if we’re talking about salvation instead of reduced punishment in hell.

    Consider, for example, Craig Blomberg (who I’m sure most would consider pretty orthodox.) He argues that there are not levels of salvation. That’s a fairly common view amongsts Christians for various reasons, though not a unanimous one. Combine that with the fact that one must accept Jesus in mortality to go to heaven. (Again, this isn’t 100% either, but very very common.) The end result is that we’re judged by what we know only if we go to hell. i.e. it reduces our punishment type. Since I’m discussing salvation, I feel I’m pretty much on target here for most Christians.

    As for theosis, yes, some Christians believe in this in various forms. Most reject the idea entirely or at least believe they do. (Note this from the article you linked to: “I think it’s safe to say that evangelicals don’t actively believe in theosis.”. Ms Jack may be an exception, however.) But since words are just words, it’s probably safe to say that given the right set of definitions all Christians believe in some sort of theosis in some sense. I’ll accept this as true.

    However, I basically agree with your points. There is no single all encompassing set of doctrines that we can point to and say “this is what it means to be an Evangelical.” Indeed, there is no such set of doctrines for any religion that I know of.

    That fact can be exploited in two ways, however, that I’d like to discourage.

    One, we can play the bloggernacle trick of (for example) claiming that no matter what you believe no matter how contrary to the teachings of the LDS leaders, your beliefs are still deeply “Mormon” since “Mormons” have no set beliefs. This is obviously just a falsehood. Its a trivial matter to list out beliefs that define Mormonism as Mormonism.

    Likewise, we can take a belief common to a religion and then point to an exception and say “well, actually that religion doesn’t believe that!” For example, we could take a statement like “Christians believe Jesus to be uniquely the Son of God” and then point to a Christian sect that does not believe this and retort “See, you were wrong.” Once we are playing this game, all communication becomes impossible.

    So I fully acknowledge you as being right, but don’t feel it’s mutually exclusive from any of my points. It becomes burdensome to point out every exception and one can’t write blog posts if this becomes necessary for all cases. So I’ll just say here that there are many exceptions to any one thing I state about Evangelical beliefs.

  7. Bruce ~ I was happy to come across your post this morning. I don’t think we know each other very well, but you sound like someone I would get along well with, too. It’s a rare thing to see someone put so much time and charity into understanding the point of view of another, and I appreciate the effort on display here. I will break my reply into sections with bolded sub-headings, similar to your own post. Thank you for opening up a space to talk about these issues and providing such a gracious OP.

    I wanted to start by addressing what you’ve written here:

    But from what I’ve seen of her comments online, she is making an honest attempt to understand Mormons. Though I feel she often fails in her quest — I would ask all to remember how incredibly difficult it is to get past our own intrenched meaning-memes for the sake of understanding someone else’s.

    I’d like to say that I agree with you. I do often fail in my quest to understand Mormons and Mormonism. It isn’t due to malice or lack of effort as some would say of me, but I’ve long felt that Mormonism is one of those things where the more I learn about it, the more lost I feel.

    Anyhow, my own thoughts on these issues.

    On Terminology

    One of my great frustrations in my ongoing participation in interfaith dialogue has been my inability to find terminology that satisfies everyone. I try and I try, but it feels like, no matter how much I attempt to qualify my writing, no matter how often I draw on words that I see Mormons themselves using, no matter how careful I try to be with what I say, someone will object and say I’m not being accurate enough. Some examples I’ve witnessed in the last few years of blogging and commenting on message boards:

    ~ A few years ago, I described Mormonism as “demi-universalist” in one of the comments on my blog. Immediately one of my LDS friends responded and objected to this characterization. Yet you yourself, in this blog post, have labeled Mormonism “semi-universalist.” I’m pretty sure I used “demi-universalist” myself because I had heard the term from Mormon bloggers.

    ~ In the last year or so, I had someone on a message board object to my attempts to use “historic Christianity” or “traditional Christianity” for non-LDS Christianity. This person even went so far as to accuse me of anti-Mormonism for making such a distinction. However, the LDS church’s Ensign has for years used those terms to refer to non-LDS Christians. I used them all throughout my classes during my undergraduate education at BYU and never got a single objection.

    Regarding your post, you have a partial objection to my use of the word “corrupt” to describe what Mormons think about my religion. But that’s exactly what the official canonized First Vision says of other Christian religions—”all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.’” We can quibble on the precise meaning of several of those phrases, but I don’t think “Mormons believe other Christian religions are corrupt” is at all an inaccurate one-sentence summary of what the First Vision says about the rest of Christianity.

    I guess the point of all this is: if you (or anyone else) hear me use a term that you object to, please keep in mind that it may not be my word per se. I may be using the word because I’ve heard other Mormons use it and it seems to work for them.

    Who Hit First, the Mormon or the Evangelical?

    My approach to this issue has shifted somewhat in the past year since I made the comment at T&S that you cited in this post. My thinking on the matter had evolved, at least in part, as a response to a certain type of Mormon that I kept encountering in my dialogue travels. I can only describe this type of Mormon as the “What did Mormons ever do to Evangelicals?” Mormon. I’ll spare you a lengthy digression of the details on what a WDMEDTE Mormon is like. Suffer it to say that they are Mormons who always portray evangelicals as the aggressors and genuinely seem to believe that Mormon leaders have never said an unkind word about other Christians.

    I no longer think the question of “who hit first” is particularly helpful. I don’t mean to or want to portray Mormons as the aggressors who came out of nowhere and began picking on the Christians who were just minding their own business. The fact is, even if Mormonism hadn’t aggressively castigated mainstream Christianity for its “apostasy,” even if it had ignored mainstream Christianity and simply preached an open canon, an embodied Heavenly Father, etc., it still would have taken a lot of flack from other Christians. (Heck, look at the flack that Mike Licona is taking right now from Norman Geisler and Albert Mohler just for disagreeing with their interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53!!!) Mormonism’s disdain for traditional Christianity may have exacerbated the situation, but it did not create it.

    What I do think is important is for members of both sides to understand that each side teaches and does things that it feels are theologically necessary. Mormons teach that evangelical Christianity is in apostasy. Evangelicals teach that Mormonism is a dangerous theological heresy. Unless one of us seriously alters our central, distinctive beliefs, this is never going to change.

    I think it’s also important to realize that either side has said hurtful things about the other that were not theologically necessary. You may be hurt and upset when you see the people standing outside Temple Square with their signs; I was hurt and upset the first time I read the transcript of the pre-1990 endowment ceremony.

    Both sides experience bad behavior in our day and age from members of the other side, especially if they live in an area where they’re in the religious minority vs. the other side. (Evangelicals in Utah, Mormons in the Bible belt, etc.) I’ve never found it helpful to compare stories of which side is meaner (and trust me, as a member of an interfaith family, I have gotten it from both sides).

    Those are the things that I think are important.

    On Corrupt Faith

    So, what did I mean when I said Mormons believe my faith is corrupt?

    Well, you tell me. What do Mormons mean when they teach the part of the First Vision that I quoted above? For the record, I believe in quite a few of the historic creeds and accept them as my own, and very few have been changed since the 19th century. Furthermore, I accept many Christians from centuries past as my spiritual brothers and sisters and look forward to seeing them in heaven. So what do Mormons mean when they say those creeds are an abomination and their “professors” (the engineers of the creeds, or those who profess them like me?) corrupt? That’s really up to you.

    Invalid Baptisms

    When I first began studying Mormonism as a teenager, I met with the missionaries. They said I needed to be baptized. I said I’d already been baptized. They replied, “You didn’t get baptized. You went swimming.” I thought that was a pretty awful thing to say about an experience that I considered sacred.

    You may tell me that they were 19-21 years old. That they were young and stupid and insensitive. And you’d probably be right on all accounts.

    Doesn’t really change the fact that they were authorized representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and some of the first members of the church I’d ever discussed religion with, and they were shamefully dismissive of Protestant baptism. If I think Mormons believe Protestant baptisms are “invalid” in every sense of the word, then it’s only because so many Mormons have acted as if Protestant baptism means nothing.

    (To be clear, I’m blessed to have some very good LDS friends whom I’ve met through blogging, who have articulated much more positive views of what baptism can mean for a Protestant. But I feel like they’re outliers among the LDS community.)

    Historically there has been significant variance among Christians on what baptism is and what it does. For my own part? My baptism was an outward symbol and ritual confirmation of an inward reality. I had given up my old life, turned over my sins to God, been cleansed and forgiven by him. The baptism itself did not remove any sins or give me eternal life; it symbolized a spiritual baptism that had already happened.

    Galatians 3:26-27 says, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Do Mormons believe that Protestants can be “baptized into Christ” and “cloth themselves with Christ” without formal baptism in the LDS church? If so, then what does LDS baptism even accomplish beyond that?

    Again, I’m leaving that up to you.

    Paraclete

    The Holy Spirit was once considered “the forgotten member of the Trinity.” The Bible has the least to say about the Spirit, so the Spirit was not discussed nearly as much as the Father and the Son throughout most of Christian history. Then Pentecostalism happened and everyone took a lot more interest in what the Bible had to say about the Spirit. What evangelicals believe about the Paraclete (the Comforter/Advocate from John 14-16) is probably more varied than what we believe about baptism, so I’m only going to talk about what I believe. And I believe:

    - That the Holy Spirit can dwell in a believer’s heart and guide, comfort, pray for, pray with, and direct her in her spiritual walk
    - That this was not an option prior to Pentecost but has been a reality ever since.
    - I used to believe that this was necessarily a separate event from conversion. Now I think it automatically happens at conversion or soon after.
    - That the Spirit can equip believers with gifts, even miraculous ones

    I think that most evangelicals would affirm that they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit or guided by the Paraclete. And I think Mormonism necessarily denies this, and instead offers its “Light of Christ” doctrine to explain any Gift-of-the-Holy-Ghost-like experiences that other Christians have.

    I wrote a paper on this when I was a freshman at BYU and Kylie Turley (who blogs at T&S now) was my writing teacher. 19 year-old me was even more curmudgeonly than 29 year-old me, but if you’re interested, it’s available online.

    Church & Religion

    I’m going to be brief here because it’s getting late, but if I’m understanding you right, you’re saying:

    Protestants are more tolerant in their ecclesiology (which churches are acceptable to God) but less tolerant in their soteriology (who gets saved). Lots of Protestant churches and even Catholics and Orthodox Christians are acceptable to God, but Christians in general are the only ones getting saved at all.

    Mormons are less tolerant in their eccelesiology but more tolerant in their soteriology. Only the LDS church is fully acceptable to God, but in some sense, everyone is getting saved.

    Would that be accurate? Because if it is, while there are some qualifications I might add, I generally don’t disagree.

    I’m going to hit “post” on this comment without checking it for spelling or punctuation, so please forgive me in advance.

  8. The thing that bugs me about the “you’re going to hell” warning from well-meaning Evangelicals is not that they believe it. That doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

    What bugs me about it is that it’s a stupid and ineffectual method for selling their religion, and that it also distorts what their message is actually about.

    I don’t care that they believe it, I just consider it bad “witnessing” – and oddly enough, that does bother me to no end.

  9. Seth, I love your comment.

    Bruce, what exactly is your bottom line? It eluded me.

    I think you acknowledged the context of Jack’s comment and then ignored it. She was merely trying to help Mormons hear the other side of their own rhetoric. Are you saying she was insincere to do so?

    I do appreciate you acknowledging the mutual exclusivity of our faiths.

  10. Ms. Jack—I would like to address some of what you say because it got me thinking.

    The quote you related above, particularly, “that those professors were all corrupt;” is often misunderstood by members of the Church, and it is no wonder that others also misunderstand it to mean that all members of another religion are corrupt, or subscribing to a corrupt religion.

    To understand it, it must be put into context. Joseph was asking a very specific question about a very specific group of religious leaders. It is a mistake to take the Lord’s confirmation that those leaders (who were actively and viciously engaged in a religious game of capture-the-worshipper) were corrupt, and apply it to all religious leaders of all other faiths.

    I believe when the Lord said that they have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof, He was answering the specific question that Joseph posed, which of the churches in his area he should join.

    As far as baptism, LDS doctrinally and not culturally speaking (as I’m sure we can both recognize that there are a great many uninformed people in every group extant,) there are two kinds of meaning/validity in the ordinance. First, there is the personal, spiritual meaning, which can be effective no matter what the origin or nature of the baptism, as you describe. For most religions, this is all that baptism is. But LDS doctrine also believes in a structural purpose to baptism, which must have authority from God Himself in order to be effective. Naturally, the LDS Church believes they have that authority, and that God is a god of order and organization, so would not authorize in a disorganized manner.

    Those LDS members who understand this are not “outliers,” though they may be in the minority as many people do not apply themselves to understanding doctrine.

    Much the same distinction comes up with beliefs in the Holy Spirit, and the difference between the Gift of the Holy Ghost and guidance or spiritual gifts by the Holy Ghost. Again, many do not understand this, but that doesn’t make those who do “outliers.”

    Really, there is doctrinally nothing in the LDS church that denies the spirituality of others in any religion, including Evangelicalism. The full and only purpose of the church is the authority and organization. And there is no doubt that others would deny we have that authority. But almost any church that believes in authority and order is going to claim that they have that authority. So yes, I think your summation is accurate. There is only one organization that has the authority and therefore the complete approval of God. But one does not have to be in that organization to be granted a measure of salvation.

    And this may be my own personal viewpoint, and not doctrine, but I believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as we know and understand it today will be obsolete to a point when Christ comes. It will just be the body of Christ, and all will be made one.

  11. The distinction between the actually receiving the Holy Ghost, and having the spirit guide us, are two different things you point out. I only say I find it important, because at many many times in my life, despite having received the ordinance for the receipt of the Holy Ghost I rarely had it with me in my life in the sense of “receiving the Holy Ghost”.

    My impression is, that for most of my life, as well as most of the LDS members I’ve interacted with, we’ve rarely had gift of the Holy Ghost, and have been operating “beneath our privileges”, so to speak, on the level of the Spirit giving light and enlightening our minds.

    When I read the statement that the Holy Ghost is a revelator, and no one receives the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations, I look to the corollary of that and suggest that I could not have possibly received the Holy Ghost unless I was receiving revelation. I can look back on my life and see that I was more often touched and enlightened by the light of the Spirit, rather than receiving revelation via the Holy Ghost.

    These things seem so close, that it’s almost impractical to me to identify the difference, as the vast, if not complete sum of good in the world would seem to have a spark from the Spirit near its source. But when talking with Christians outside of the church, it certainly seems exclusionary. It probably shouldn’t because if I take my own assessment of myself, it would seem that most LDS members haven’t actually received the Holy Ghost either… Or at least not to the degree that is our privilege.

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